BYLINE: Jill Disis and Justin L. Mack
The Indianapolis, IN
12:45 p.m. update:
The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police says its membership is “disappointed” to learn of the arrest of Cory Owensby, an IMPD officer who is also the son of FOP President Bill Owensby.
“The specific details of the criminal charges have not been published. We do not know if the allegations constitute truly criminal conduct, departmental violations or unintended negligence. We are compelled to await further specifics,” the FOP released in a statement Friday. “However, just as compelling is our belief in due process for the accused; whether a citizen, an elected official or a police officer. Everyone in our society deserves a fair and impartial review of their actions, including Cory Owensby.”
Due to his relationship with Cory Owensby, Bill Owensby will also abstain from professional involvement related to the matter, according to the FOP statement.
An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer was arrested Thursday after being accused of mishandling evidence in five investigations he handled during the past two years.
It’s not yet clear how a possible conviction on any of those charges would affect the outcome of those cases.
A Marion County grand jury indicted officer Cory Owensby, 33, on 13 criminal counts of official misconduct, false reporting and criminal conversion after an investigation lasting at least eight months, officials said.
Owensby, who has been with the department since 2007, is the son of Bill Owensby, president of the Indianapolis chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. Bill Owensby did not return phone calls from The Indianapolis Star on Thursday.
IMPD officials say they discovered Owensby mishandled evidence during five investigations between October 2012 and June 2013. In some cases, Owensby is accused of not putting evidence in the department’s property room.
After an internal investigation that started last summer, Owensby was placed on administrative desk duty. In July, special prosecutor D.J. Mote, from Jefferson County, was appointed to the case. He requested last December that a grand jury convene to review evidence of misconduct.
Mote said that jury convened last week. On Thursday, when the charges were filed, IMPD Chief Rick Hite said Owensby was suspended without pay.
“Any misconduct by one of our employees is taken seriously,” Hite said in a statement Thursday. “I want the community to know that IMPD’s internal systems identified the issue and we acted on the accusations. Officers are expected to act within department policies and the law; those who choose not to will be held accountable.”
Owensby was indicted on five charges of criminal conversion, five charges of official misconduct and three charges of false informing. The most serious charge, official misconduct, is a class D felony. Each official misconduct count carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
It’s not clear how Owensby is accused of mishandling the evidence. While the criminal counts listed in the grand jury indictment were released to the public, the evidence reviewed by the grand jury remains sealed, Mote said.
“If it’s a trial, obviously that will be public,” Mote said.
Peg McLeish, a spokeswoman for the Marion County prosecutor’s office, said all of the cases cited in the grand jury indictment have been closed, but it was not clear how they were resolved.
Marion County clerk’s office spokeswoman Erin Kelley said they did not have the authority to release probable cause affidavits or other information for any of those cases, because they are tied to the sealed details of the grand jury indictment.
However, an IMPD incident report connected to one of the cases cited in the indictment, State of Indiana v. Kimberly Hagan, says Owensby was one of the officers who confiscated pills, including the pain reliever hydrocodone, during a drug investigation last March.
“Owensby recovered and transported the pills to the property room as evidence,” the report says.
According to the charges for all five cases listed in the grand jury indictment, Owensby is accused of mishandling a steel axe, marijuana and a marijuana pipe, and “controlled substances,” including pills.
Although those five cases Owensby was involved in have been closed, it’s not yet clear whether a conviction on any of the 13 charges he faces will result in any of the cases being reopened.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Mote said. “I don’t know if that’s something that’s being explored or not.”
David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said in the event that an officer is convicted of mishandling evidence, there is a possibly that the case associated with the wrongdoing could be reopened.
However, a conviction on such a charge does not automatically make a closed case worthy of a second look.
“It depends on the circumstance, and you’re going to want to be very careful before you go on a fishing expedition,” Powell said. “If it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt and it relates to a specific case, then obviously you’re going to want to look at that ... but an accusation is merely that until an individual is found guilty.”
Owensby was processed at the Arrestee Processing Center in Indianapolis on Thursday, before being released. His attorney, John Kautzman, did not return requests for comment.
Owensby is expected to appear in court May 5. Pending the outcome of that criminal investigation, Owensby will have a termination hearing before IMPD Civilian Police Merit Board.
Star researcher Cathy Knapp contributed to this story.
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